The rise of the self-service economy

Self-service is a growing trend driven by consumer behavior, cost reductions, and labor shortages. Here’s how technology drives change and automation across industries.

Self-service over human contact

Self-service kiosks are customer-facing devices with a touch screen, allowing them to make payments, access information, or check in at an airport. Customers handle simple interactions more and more independently for example, ordering food at a restaurant. 

The pandemic accelerated the acceptance and use of self-services across industries. According to Mckinsey and Company, 79% of consumers will continue or even increase the use of self-service methods such as self-checkout in stores. 

Technology offers benefits such as limiting human interaction, reducing waiting times, and improving customer service. Self-service tools require investment up-front but can save time and resources. The market is growing and is expected to surpass the $30.3 billion mark by 2026. 

The impact of technology

Technologies are continuously evolving, making self-service systems more secure, efficient, and convenient, benefitting both consumers and businesses. Self-service devices have a different look and feel across industries. Freestanding kiosks are recognizable in a large space, even from a distance.

Smaller technology such as tablets is popular in retail areas and restaurants, creating a streamlined customer experience. Clear and consistent messaging helps the visitor or customer to understand the flow step-by-step.

By entering data directly onto the kiosk, there is less chance for error and miscommunication. Interactive self-service kiosks have hardware and software components that must work together to provide an excellent customer experience.

Artificial intelligence

With AI, machines learn from interactions, enabling them to perform complex tasks over time. Self-service kiosks generate enormous amounts of data. Using that data for improvement, kiosks can carry out more detailed communication with users and optimize problem-solving, meeting the needs of retailers and other businesses. 

Artificial intelligence can
recognize shoppers, create a profile, and tailor promotions to the customers in store. Vision systems track customers and their selected products as they move between the aisles, making it a difficult environment for shoplifters. 

Will kiosks replace staff?

While cashier-less retail stores are no exception, decreased human interaction can have a negative impact on customers and workers. Self-service doesn’t fully replace but supplements staff. Businesses will need team members to assist with issues, and customers like to see a friendly face when they walk in. 

Kiosks help run the front of the house but require supervision and maintenance. Self-service machines cannot take the place of employees when a customer has a question or need technical assistance. During peak hours at a restaurant, orders flood the kitchen. Staff will need to prep food and bus tables.  

Supply chain issues will continue to create demands for automated customer-facing resources, for example, a kiosk displaying the stock of products. Another effect of the pandemic is the shift from face-to-face services to online. Directing consumers to automated resources enables businesses to assist with complex issues at any time without spending time on repetitive tasks. 

According to Gartner’s 2022 Customer Service Trends and Priorities research, 74% of respondents mark self-service channels as important or very important.

The many applications of self-service solutions

Self-service kiosks are available in many different configurations and capacities. Services range from self-check-in offering general information to financial services.

Way finders

Public buildings can house many visitors. Kiosks help people keep track of opening times and lay-out of the area, high-traffic locations, and directory.

Visitor management

Kiosks allow visitors and staff to sign in using a touch screen without needing assistance, saving reception staff valuable time.

Customer registration

Governmental buildings see large volumes of individuals every day. Before visiting a professional, visitors can perform administration tasks themselves. Entering personal details, license plate number, and other relevant information eliminates steps, leaving more staff capacity to verify the entered data and validate a new license plate or driver’s license.

Offices

Busy offices require continuous access control and monitoring of who walks in and out of the building. A visitor self-registration device can be used unsupervised in a lobby, helping visitors take a picture and generate a photo ID to tap in and out.

Hospitality

Hotels can use kiosks for room reservations and self-check-in. Deploying such a self-service system works for guests as they can come and go as they please without ringing the bell at the reception desk. The automation makes it easier for hotel staff to track which rooms are occupied or require housekeeping.

Quick-service restaurants

It’s called fast food for a reason. Self-service technology helps restaurants process high volumes of customers.
By automating the order process, companies can serve more people and increase revenue while customers enjoy a meal served fast.

Self-check-out in supermarkets

Supermarkets create an efficient shopping experience through SST technology. Customers scan and pay for their purchases without needing a cashier. Self-check-out terminals can save time, enabling the employees to get additional tasks done like stocking shelves. Retailers can be hesitant to implement self-service systems as there is a greater risk of theft, especially when using paperless terminals.

Airports

Airport kiosks can be used for multiple purposes. Airports tend to be quite large, creating a need for way finders and flight information in all areas. Allowing self-check-in and luggage drop-off frees up ground staff to cater to passengers’ needs and enhances security.

Hospitals

Healthcare facilities should run efficiently. Patients should have a rapid method of contacting medical staff and a smooth registration process for planned surgery and appointments. Checking in via a kiosk allows patients privacy as they don’t have to share their medical history out loud. At the same time, a self-service system helps the hospital to track individual patients and their progress.

Banks

Automation at traditional institutes such as banks allows employees to focus on added value tasks and complex questions or tasks. Cashing checks, withdrawing, and depositing many can all be done without having to ask for assistance or wait in a long line. The Automated Teller Machine (ATM) is one of the first applications of the self-service revolution. 

Traveling family using self-service kiosk

Types of self-service kiosks

Today’s landscape sees a multitude of terminals catering to different industries in many configurations. Kiosks ensure a quick and easy exchange of interaction between customers and services. Heavy foot traffic areas require upkeep and improvements, ensuring that automation performs at high standards.

Freestanding kiosks

Freestanding kiosks are large and prominent, making them a not-to-miss step for customers. These models serve various applications, from information kiosks to point-of-sale terminals in retail stores.

Wall-mount kiosks

Mount kiosks are usually much smaller than freestanding ones and work best for a limited amount of space when compared to a freestanding kiosk. This type of kiosk is used in public transportation stations and will give users the advantage of having a fully interactive experience without wasting any space.

Biometrics unleashes the power of self-service

Biometric technology enhances security while offering convenience to users. Kiosks help with a wide range of ID control applications. Technology continues to advance, and biometric identification measures will soon be included in more daily life applications.

Design is everywhere and essential in self-service kiosks. When deploying self-service terminals, it is crucial to know who will use them and for what purpose. Accessibility is critical; visually impaired people may have issues using iris scanners or fingerprint readers. People with hearing problems may be unable to follow instructions guided by audio. Confused or frustrated people will not use the service again and will likely share their negative experiences with people around them. A seamless user experience is vital in the broad adoption of self-service kiosks.

The kiosk itself should be desirable to use and accessible for all. The use of biometrics plays on the fact that physical and behavioral characteristics make us who we are; they are part of our identity.
Capturing a facial image can be challenging with a fixed scanner.

Speedy software without glitches serves the user a streamlined and straightforward experience. Clear instructions are necessary to guide people through the steps and can be achieved through light indicators, visual and audio assistance.

Access control

Access cards, PINs, or keys can be stolen or lost, while biometric identifiers such as the face, fingerprints, and iris are unique and not transferrable. Biometrics enables superior access control while giving users a smooth entry experience. 

The self-service Applicant Kiosk accurately captures documents and biometrics and takes facial images within one minute. The biometric registration terminal is designed for high-traffic locations to reduce wait times and streamline registrations. 

Self-service developments for border management

Self-service is crucial for border control. Safety is the priority at border points, and immigration checks should be performed fast with reliable outcomes. With the growing number of travelers, pre-enrollment is essential to avoid long lines at immigration. 

Border management is a high priority for the European Union. Millions of people from outside the Schengen Area, Third Country Nationals, cross the external borders every year. The EU Entry-Exit System, or EES, enables border agencies to access and process travelers in a centralized way. 

Each time a passenger crosses an EU external border, the EES digital infrastructure will register data to assess risk and automatically calculate the (remaining) length of stay. Biometric data plays a significant role in the new common database. On entry, four fingerprints and facial recognition will be used. Either one of these is acceptable on exit.  

Kiosks are the ultimate solution for optimizing airport space, reducing lines at the border checkpoint, and improving the traveler experience. A kiosk can be monitored remotely, resulting in fewer people required on the ground. While the traveler performs specific procedures without human interaction, border guards focus on decision-making and added-value activities.  

The Traveler S Kiosk instantly captures the required document and biometric data and smoothens the travel experience at airports, seaports, and in-land border points.

Identity enrolment

The right to a legal identity has been on the human rights agenda since 1948. In 2015, the global community adopted Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. The SDG 16.9 states: “provide legal identity for all, including birth registration.” Identification can be a vehicle for developing policies and programs and promotes opportunities to strengthen the economic situation, benefitting governments and citizens alike.  

Biometric technology has taken up a central position in the rollout of identification systems and has expanded the capabilities of existing systems. Fingerprint, face, and iris capture are the standard biometrics used in identification. 
Enrolling citizens requires accuracy and planning. The method of capturing biometrics should be user-friendly and straightforward, minimizing the risk of error. 

Available in many configurations, the Identity Kiosk ensures accurate enrollment in (national) ID programs, including an ICAO-compliant image for ID cards and passports. 

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